The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to bread making

Leftie's picture

New to bread making


In all my years in the kitchen, I've always been doing muffins and pancakes, and I've only recently started doing my own bread. I'm impressed with how few ingredients are essential to bread. In theory just, wheat, water, yeast, and salt?

I followed the recipe printed on the back of the flour bag. It said 3c flour, 9oz water, 1 pack yeast, 2t sugar, 1T olive oil, 1t salt. The result was something I'd be all right eating myself but maybe not something I could impress family with just yet.

Using unbleached bread flour, I got bread that had a good bread taste. But the crust was too flakey and the inside dried out too quicky (within a day). I tried all-purpose flour. It produced bread with the kind of texture I like, a chewy crust. However, the bread tastes very bland.

As a longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, I've long been fond of the local sourdough bread. The bread made with all-purpose flour resembles the texture and consistency of sourdough bread. But I don't think it's just the lack of sourness that makes what I made bland.

What could I do to improve the taste of the bread? I thought I might be missing a magical ingredient, so I'm posting here in the ingredients section. Is it the flour that makes a difference?

Or could it be method? Should the dough be put in the refrigerator overnight so the yeast can work at producing more flavor? I've been kneading by hand, no need to increase counter junk when I already have a rice cooker and slow cooker. The dough has been left to rise at room temperature on the counter, since it seems to double in size in the first 15 minutes without any extra warming anyway.

kayemme's picture

taste is so subjective, but i'm relatively new to breadmaking also (six months or so, about a loaf every other day or every 3 days at most).

here are my observations from my own experiences in the kitchen:

if you're going to add a fat (oil), choose one with a mild flavor or try using butter or yogurt or milk or egg orsomething that has fat in it that you enjoy the taste of.

 you don't need a fat, though; lean breads can be quite tasty - it just takes a little practice. 

usually olive oil has a very distinct flavor, so i can see how that might not be the best thing for just a regular loaf, but is, in fact, very nice when brushed on at the end because it's so sparing.

the proofing overnight in the fridge makes a very tasty loaf. also making a bigger loaf the first time and cutting off a chunk to refrigerate (and use w/in three days) to add to your next batch is a nice little trick. (pate preferment) 

there are HUNDREDS of methods, each yielding a different taste or texture, so i'd suggest keeping a journal on hand or make notes somewhere (even a blog would be cool because then other people can share advice) with your experiments.

 the best thing about experimenting with foods is, it's rarely terrible.  or browse around on here and follow directions expressly until you get a feel for it. 


dhedrick's picture

If you're looking for true sourdough flavor, the best way to get it is to use starter - it's the bacteria in the starter that produce the flavor - it takes much more work than standard bread in the beginning because there is a bigger learning curve it seams.  I ordered my starter almost 2 years ago, and it still happily lives in my fridge and makes some decent bread, but it's taste has changed DRAMATICALLY since I first got it.  There are tons of sourdough resources available, including many on this site if that's what you're looking for.

As for other ways to flavor bread, there are unlimited ways - some fantastic, some so-so - experiment, learn, and have a blast!

nbicomputers's picture

these are not sour dough but they are a good basic loaf as a starting poing both will give a soft foaf that will keep for several days.

Pro Baker for over 25 years-----Ret

Leftie's picture

Thanks for the quick comments.



I might be in the muffin mentality, but I'm thinking fat would be good to keep the baked bread moist longer. Is lean bread fated to be like rock in a day? Also, I have some experience with non-bread dough, namely noodle dough. A little bit of oil in the noodle dough makes the dough much more elastic and easier to knead, so I do like the idea of having fat in my bread dough.

So what fat to use? Besides olive oil, you've already suggested butter, yogurt, milk, and egg. That's already four loaves to try out. I think that'll be an interesting few bakes.

But perhaps it is the method and not the choice of ingredients (including flour). Overnight proofing in the fridge and pate ferment sound like worthwhile methods to try out.

Oh, and by bland, I do mean a undeveloped flavor. It's like eating pre-risen dough.



I'd like to get around to doing sourdough too. For this, I'm just seeking regular bread to come out right. I've had an earlier loaf that tasted better, so I'd like to get that with the crumb and crust I got with AP flour.



Do soft bread keep longer? I do like my crust chewy, but perhaps that's more to do with the amount of sugar in the dough and the glaze?

nbicomputers's picture

as a rule the richer the bread the better the keeping quility

also richerr breads will have a thin soft tender crust

the formulas I posted are for basic sadwitch type loafs and soft diner rolls

as the second formula shows a few small changes (increasing the sugar and fat, replacing a portion of the sugar with honey and the addition of eggs) will result in not only better taste but a bread that will better resist stailing. 

Pro Baker for over 25 years-----Ret

kayemme's picture

it's true that loaves with fat keep a little longer, however a lean loaf can keep for a couple days real nice, depending... especially lean loaves with preferment which have sort of a buttery feel to the crumb without any butter. it's so weird. all mine are elastic and smooth by the time i'm finished kneading, regardless of fat content (i work mostly in lean breads). 

 as far as a chewy crust, the best thing i've found so far is to keep a spray bottle with water nearby. just as loaf is going into oven, spray it. then every few minutes for the first 10, quickly open the oven door, spritz it and then quickly shut it (so not too much heat escapes). 

you can also try using brown sugar instead of white, or like some other suggestions, use honey, both of these keep moistness.

holds99's picture

Because home baked bread contains no preservatives (or isn't supposed to) it will go stale fairly quickly.  What works well for me is to slice the entire loaf with a serrated knife,  place the sliced loaf in a plastic bag and gently press the air out of the plastic bag, tie it and freeze it.   Then use the number of slices you need, when you need them.  Home baked bread starts going stale very quickly, especially after being cut/sliced. 

I think you'd be well advised to read some of the books available on baking, particularly artisan baking; Local Breads, Bread Bakers Apprentice, Artisan Baking, Bread Bible, etc.  When you move from the direct method (yeast) to pre-ferments (sourdough starters, poolish, bigas,etc.) it's like moving from practical math to algebra in the sense there are so many more variables in the equation.  I'm no "expert baker" but my suggestion is to learn the 11 steps (Hamelman - Local Breads first chapter) and think of the process in terms of those 11 steps and it will make the process much easier to understand and provide you a systematic approach.

Good luck.